Pujara is the only batter to be left out for the upcoming Test series against West Indies, from the core group that featured in that final. With the new WTC cycle beginning with the the two-Test tour of the Caribbean in July, the selection panel, led for now by SS Das, have picked uncapped Yashasvi Jaiswal and Ruturaj Gaikwad in the 17-member squad. This means India will potentially have a new No. 3 in the West Indies, unless Shubman Gill drops down one position.

“Why has he been dropped? Why has he been made the scapegoat for our batting failures? He has been a loyal servant of Indian cricket,” Gavaskar told India Today. “But because he does not have millions of followers on platforms who will make a noise in case he gets dropped, so you drop him. That is something beyond my understanding. What is the criteria of dropping him and keeping the others who failed? I do not know because nowadays, there is no media interaction with the selection committee chairman, where you could ask these questions.”

Pujara managed scores of 14 and 27 at The Oval. Overall, in the 2021-23 WTC cycle, he was India’s second-highest run scorer with 928 runs in 32 innings at an average of 32 with one century and six half-centuries. In comparison, Virat Kohli only fared marginally better – 932 runs in 30 innings was 32.13, with one century and three half-centuries.

Gavaskar believes Pujara can still offer a couple of years to Indian cricket, but the road back to the team could be a long shot, especially if India’s injured regulars Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer return. For now, Ajinkya Rahane, India’s top-scorer in the WTC final, has been named vice-captain to Rohit Sharma.

“He has been playing country cricket. So, he has played a lot of red-ball cricket, so he knows what it is about,” Gavaskar said when asked if Pujara can make a comeback. “Today, people can play till they are 39-40. There’s nothing wrong, they’re all very fit; as long as you are producing runs and taking wickets, I do not think age should be a factor. Clearly only one man has been singled out, while the others who have failed…to be the batting failed. Apart from (Ajinkya) Rahane, the batting completely failed. Why Pujara has been made the fall guy is something the selectors need to explain.”

Gavaskar questioned the value Ranji Trophy performances especially in the wake of Sarfaraz Khan‘s exclusion. The 25-year-old has stacked up mountains of runs over the past three seasons, His first-class average is second only to Don Bradman, among batters who’ve played at least 50 innings; he averages 79.65, with 13 hundreds and nine half-centuries. However, he had a modest IPL and wasn’t a regular starter for the Delhi Capitals, leading Gavaskar to wonder if the IPL had been a hindrance to his selection.

“You do well in the IPL and you get to be picked even in Test cricket. That seems to be the situation,” Gavaskar lamented. “Even if you look at the selection of the team, you have four opening batters for two Test matches. It’s not the old fast West Indies attack where you needed six opening batters.

“Sarfaraz Khan has been scoring at an average of 100 in all past three seasons. What does he have to do to be picked in the squad? He might not be in the XI, but you pick him in the team. Tell him that his performances are being recognised. Otherwise, stop playing Ranji Trophy. Say, it’s of no use, you just play IPL and think you are good enough for the red-ball game as well.”


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